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"Final Fantasy 14": Issues With the Single-Player Experience

The world of Eorzea, the story we shape, and the "single-player experience" we share online ... is dying.

The world of Eorzea, the story we shape, and the "single-player experience" we share online ... is dying.

Giving Credit Where It's Due

First and foremost, I must give credit and thanks to a dear and fellow fan of the series Final Fantasy XIV, Brian. Brian and his group, Work to Game (I recommend following them via social media), have brought the discussion to the table and allowed me to analyze this subject in depth.

But the reason that I am making this known is that he offered an interesting piece of insight—with which I disagree. He believes that the current direction of Final Fantasy XIV Online is going toward more of a "Single-Player Experience" as opposed to remaining a traditional MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game).

This article is not designed to dismiss his belief, as he is correct in this assessment. This article is simply an expression that this direction, machinated by the deceptive "Yoshi-P" (SquareEnix's Naoki Yoshida), is demonstrably false. In other words, this is another problem that is not being addressed. Let me explain ...

The Narrative of Single-Player

Let's not kid ourselves; despite being an MMORPG, this game is played with individual players, aka single players. It's not as if you can connect multiple people on one account or have them play on the same screen, à la older RPGs of the past (Secret of Mana and certain Tales of titles come to mind).

By that understanding, we are only experiencing a single-player experience. The multiplayer aspect comes from our interactions with other players in the online space created in gameplay and how we carry out quests and tasks in-game. If this is what Brian is referring to, then the argument is settled: Yes, this is a single-player experience and not an MMO.

But It's an MMO in Structure and Purpose

Except that it's an MMO in structure and the fulfillment of story and purpose in-game. You cannot progress in this game without some form of interaction with other players. Single-player experiences have no such limitations; the other players in those instances are automated, and they're not a concern for the player in most cases.

What About Trusts?

Now, the current expansion has tried to implement "Trusts," which is a form of Non-Player Characters (NPCs) to fill in gaps in roles meant for other players. But in reality, it's to keep the unruly DPS role-players pacified and to spare the Tank and Healer role-players from dealing with these unruly children (aka, DPS Hits). This has been mistaken as a single-player experience. This now brings us to the next stage of the discussion ...

Why Online If Only Single-Player?

Single-player games are not dependent on outside access. They are isolated and closed-off escapes from reality. The feature of online play removes such isolation, and thus alters the experience of single-player to multiplayer. While online functionality is a perk of a single-player game, it should never be the driving force of it. Making it so would mean the game was intended for multiple players—meaning that the single-player experience becomes lackluster at best.

Comparisons With Destiny and Anthem

To prove this, look no further than the disastrous single-player abominations of Destiny and Anthem. Both have elements of single-player, but neither of them is worthy of the title. Naturally, we know why: to promote online gameplay and exploit players with loot boxes and microtransactions (cancer and diabetes of the gaming arena/industry, respectively). This destroyed the chance of any replayability, and for the most part, the games remain incomplete.

There are other examples of this incomplete state, such as Street Fighter (or fighting games in general), Halo 5: Guardians (which focuses on Squad-based Co-op yet never reaches the quality of Halo: Reach), and yes, Fallout 76 ... which as of this article, is still broken.

Single-Player Games Don't Need to Be Online (DLC Doesn't Count)

But I'm getting off-topic; the online aspect is not necessary for single-player games. These games are their own worlds, and we, the players, interact within the confines of this world to the game's inevitable conclusion. If anything, online would just be a means to receive additional content via Downloaded Content (DLC); that alone weakens the experience as that content was either not planned to be in the game within the release date window or was removed prior to release only to be resold at a later juncture. This means that the game has a lacking single-player experience, regardless of the reasons listed above.

But back to the question: Why online if it's only a single-player game? The answer is simple: It's not. If you need online functionality to enjoy a single-player game, then you're not asking for single-player; you're asking for multiplayer in a single-player environment, which automatically makes it multiplayer. The online component also gives the developers a "Get out of Jail Free" card in terms of providing a complete game, which finally leads to the real concern in this matter ...

Single-Player Experiences Are "Complete" Packages

A true Single-Player experience requires the following:

  1. A complete story with all elements accessible via narrative and progression.
  2. Independence from other players (not NPCs)
  3. Engaging initial gameplay that keeps the one player entertained.
  4. Replayability that allows for multiple playthroughs.
  5. Eventual predictability in terms of loot drops.
  6. A single, one-time-only price tag that reflects the product's "feature completeness."

The final aspect is actually external to the game itself but is VITAL to the perception of Single-Player games as a whole. Final Fantasy XIV Online does not fulfill any of these Single-Player requirements. For those that are attentive to detail, nowhere in that listing states that a Single-Player game has an online component. Again, that is covered by the second qualification, "Independence from other players (not NPCs)."

If you need other players to better your experience in the game, then you are in need of a multiplayer game. If the developer requires you to interact with other players in order to complete the objectives in that game, it's a multiplayer game. Finally, to hit this home, in the latest expansion of FFXIV: Shadowbringers, the Trust system is used for dungeons and a few of the instanced content, but not all areas of the game.

Note: You must still work with other players in the Raids and Trials, so the "Single-Player" claim is demonstrably false in that you must still interact with human players to complete the story.

So ... What's the Problem With This?

The problem with this is simple: Claiming FFXIV a Single-Player experience while requiring multiple players to interact in-game to complete objectives/story progression is dangerous. It gives Yoshi-P and the development team a blank check excuse to become lazier and lazier in their efforts in providing quality work.

Also, the Single-Player experiences are about as complete as this game. FFXIV is still ongoing with no clear direction or insight—dependent on an online component being the driving force instead of a clear, complete direction. We're not there yet, and Yoshi-P has no intention of getting us there.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Michael Rivers

So What Do You, Dear Reader, Think of This?

Michael Rivers (author) from North Carolina on January 20, 2020:

A friendly reminder, please keep it civil; also, try to focus on FFXIV, but it's understandable if you wish to use this as a platform to a much larger discussion to be addressed.